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Arizona-style immigration law in Kentucky opposed by PC(USA)

 Leaders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have spoken out against a proposed immigration bill the Kentucky legislature is considering, sending a letter saying it would not hold national meetings or conventions in Kentucky if the strict Arizona-style legislation were passed.

The proposed legislation would expand Kentucky’s authority to enforce federal immigration law and includes provisions to allow law enforcement officials to attempt to determine a person’s immigration status if he or she is stopped for another reason, such as a traffic violation, and is suspected of being an illegal immigrant. Critics say the legislation unfairly targets immigrants and would be expensive to enforce.

The bill has been approved by the Kentucky Senate, which Republicans control, but is expected to face difficulty in the state’s majority-Democratic House of Representatives. The Kentucky legislature will reconvene Feb. 1.

A fiscal impact statement, prepared by legislative staff after the state Senate had voted 24-14 to pass the bill, estimates a net cost of $40 million a year in court, prison, and foster-care costs if the legislation were implemented.

On Jan. 7, PC(USA) Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons, and Linda Valentine, executive director of the General Assembly Mission Council, sent a letter to the Kentucky legislature saying the denomination supports comprehensive federal immigration reform, but the proposed legislation is “counter to the Gospel of Jesus Christ” and would have a “chilling effect on the work and worship of churches and entire communities … . The perception of the police among immigrant communities would fundamentally shift, creating an environment of fear where crime would go unreported and victims unassisted.”

The letter also states that if the legislation passed, the PC(USA) – which has its national headquarters in Louisville – would not continue to hold national meetings in Kentucky, a loss of more than 100 meetings a year.

The letter points out that the 2010 General Assembly passed a commissioners’ resolution asking that Presbyterians “refrain from holding national meetings at hotels in those states where travel by immigrant Presbyterians or Presbyterians of color or Hispanic ancestry might subject them to harassment.”